Cruising the Magdalena Region of Colombia – Santa Marta, Taganga Bay and Tayrona Park

Published 11 years ago, updated 3 years ago

Report by Pedro Faria who is currently cruising this region.

Magdalena is a department of Colombia, located in the north on the Caribbean Sea. Its capital is the city of Santa Marta and has been known by very few cruisers as a “must” on their cruising routes. For many years, Colombia’s violent history did not attract many tourists and especially cruisers, however, this bad reputation has improved in recent years and now the country has changed almost upside-down.

In the last couple of years a new marina in Santa Marta was built, lots of new resources for tourism created and a whole different new mentality is being practised – by the friendly Colombians and the Government.

Many cruisers have started to come to the Marina of Santa Marta and it is getting very popular. Our really good friend Ken Clark is the manager of the Marina and he can advise on most things, is kind and always willing to help. However, most cruisers that are coming to the marina these days are looking for something else to see, especially the National Park just around the corner and the little fishing villages. Most of them that come don’t actually know about all the immense natural beauty you can find here in the area.

If you’re travelling on a budget, as most cruisers always do, you might not want to stay longer in the marina, or indeed go there at all. In Colombia, the bureaucracy with the paperwork can take time. However, within the regulations, there are things to do and see in the meantime. What a lot of cruisers seem to be doing right now is going to Taganga Bay (around 3NM from Santa Marta) to anchor and get their paperwork with immigration, customs and port captain done over a period of days, while enjoying the welcoming fishing village with all its charms, kiosks, walking treks, activities and sightseeing.

Just a few miles away and stretching to the end of the Magdalena Department is the world famous Tayrona Park. Most of the cruisers know Tayrona because of its 5 bays which provide an excellent anchorage with pristine beaches, waterfalls, river streams, a spectacular view of the mountains and if you are lucky, a good sight of the Sierra Nevada Mountain. There still are some doubts for mariners about the permits you have to have to be able to sail around Tayrona and experience it all. For many years the park was actually closed for recreational vessels because of drug trafficking. Now all of this is in the past, the Coast Guard reopened the park with some considerations and, of course, paperwork and cruising fees (see details at bottom of report).

In Colombia, you need an agent to do all your paperwork. We used Dino Alfonso, who dealt with everything while we just relaxed. He has put together a plan for cruisers of what they need if they want to come straight to the Bay of Taganga and not go to Santa Marta at all. Dino will help you with getting on shore for the first time, explaining all shore side facilities (the village, where you can get basic services, water, showers, laundry, groceries, etc…) and how to get around and keep you up to date with everything you can possibly imagine. Personally, this is what we have done, and I couldn’t be happier: Me and my wife are friends with all the fisherman here, I go fishing with a few old guys at least 3 times a week. Sophie has joined dance classes right on the public square and we are having the time of our lives here. Most of the things that you cannot enjoy or get if you are in a big city – meeting real people, interacting and living their reality. This is cruising!

Apart from that, every now and then we go to the Park Tayrona, sailing with the coastal winds, enjoying the beautiful beaches, snorkelling, diving, fishing and just being free! Now that Dino has helped us with the permits for staying a whole year here for no extra cost, it is hard to think about leaving.

Detailed below is the step-by-step paperwork that Dino HAS to do according to Colombian laws to clear yachts into and out of the country. If this fires up your appetite for coming to this little paradise within Colombia, Dino can have everything ready beforehand. All you have to do is send him an email and he will have everything ready upon your arrival in the Bay of Taganga. If you have to go to a Marina some other time, he will direct you how to get to the Marina of Santa Marta where you can have the facilities.

Hope to see you all in Taganga.

Fair winds

Pedro Faria

Dino Shipping Agent

C.S.C. – Santa Marta Shipping Agency – S.A.S

Email: [email protected]

Upon arrival in Colombia, Dino must register you and your boat with the following institutions.

1- Immigration Office – Check in / Check out

2- Port Captain of Santa Marta – Check in / Check out

3- Customs Office – Temporary import of Vessel

Immigration Process

Clearing in: Takes 24 hours. A tourist visa is for a period of 90 days. If you want an extension, your agent will provide it.

Clearing out: Takes 24 hours. When you decide to leave, you contact your agent to get the clearance to sail out of Colombia. Please note that you should request the stamps one day an a half before leaving.

Remarks: It is the responsibility of the Boat owner and/or the captain to keep track of expiration dates of the temporary permit of your stay in Colombia. You should contact your agent to do the correct procedures according to your needs.

The Port Captain of Santa Marta

Checking in: It takes 24 hours. An officer will come to inspect if the documentation and paperwork are all in order.

Cruising Permits around Santa Marta including Tayrona Natural National Park: If you want to cruise around the Park you should ask your agent for a permit. PLEASE NOTE that it is NOT PERMITTED to anchor in the park if you do not have a permit, even if you are coming from that way heading to Santa Marta. This is a Colombian Coast Guard advisory.

A fee of 175.700 Pesos Colombianos is to be paid (around U$95.00). After that, a permanent permit for cruising is requested for cruising both day and night with a sailboat. That also includes the permit to anchor and remain anchored within the park and the local clearance you must have to move your boat around Colombia.

Checking out: Takes 24 hours. You will receive a Port Clearance, Sailing certificate of Jurisdiction.

Remember that your agent will do ALL of this for you. They know how to handle it all.

Customs Office

Temporary import of vessel within Colombian Territory.

Custom Process: Takes up to five working days. As soon as your agent gets the Visa from Immigration and Permit of Official Visit Certificate from the Port Captain, the agent will proceed with the application for Temporary Importation of Vessel.

After the application has been delivered and registered in the customs office a Customs Officer will come within the following 48 hours to verify the vessel. The temporary importation will be given for the same amount of days as the visa you were granted.

Note: If you already plan on staying more time than your visa (i.e. extending your visa), it’s a good idea to let your agent know so he can make everything clear with customs and it won’t take extra effort, time and money at a later date.

REMARK: It is the responsibility of the Boat Owner and/or Captain to keep track of the expiration dates of your permits. You should contact your agent if you have any doubts and he will sort it out for you and help you according to your needs.

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